PLAINFIELD, Ind. -- Melody Birmingham-Byrd, Duke Energy (NYSE: DUK) state president for Indiana, had a question for the graduating class of St. Mary-of-the-Woods College: "Have you now finished your education?"
"I have a question for you, she quickly added. "I want you to think long and hard about how you answer that question. Because how and what you do after today may direct you down one of two paths:
- "One path being that you've declared that your education IS NOT done, finished and completed. This path often results in personal, professional, emotional and spiritual growth – all of which may lead you toward becoming a greater you and supporting causes much bigger than yourselves.
- "The second path may be that, if you've declared that your education IS now done, finished and completed, then I fear you face a future of frustration, disappointment, and not maximizing all the potential that lies within you.
"'Learning how to learn.' That really is the primary, fundamental goal of a college education. Learning to apply critical thinking skills as you choose your approach to people and groups who think differently than you, who have a different view of the world, and different ideas about what is right, and what is wrong. Learning how to devise creative solutions to complex problems. Learning how, over time, the many ways to make a positive impact in your respective families, workplaces, and communities.
"The word 'leadership' often causes us to think of someone in a position of responsibility, someone in command of a place or situation, or someone who can exert power and authority.
"However, there's a different definition of leadership that I like and apply to my life, that being: 'Leadership is influence – nothing more, nothing less.'
"In truth, leadership has nothing to do with positional power or authority. Leadership is not defined by how many people report to you, how much money you make, how large your office is, how much control you have (or think you have) or anything else we normally think of as the definition of leadership.
"You see, in reality, each and every one of us here today is a leader. Each of us has the ability to influence another person, group of people, or situation, to achieve an acceptable and positive result. If you have influence, you are a leader."
The Duke Energy Indiana president closed with this advice:
"First, don't let the completion of the key milestone be the end of your journey. The late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, 'If you can't fly, then run. If you can't run, then walk. If you can't walk, then crawl. But whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward.'
"Second, you don't have to be the proverbial 'hero' to demonstrate everyday courage.
"Third, courage inspires leadership, and leadership is influence. Kenneth Blanchard says, 'The key to leadership today is influence, not authority.'
"Finally, don't be afraid to change, or to step outside of your comfort zone. When you step out of your comfort zone, you are stepping into what could very well become greatness. You can't become a better version of yourself unless you are willing to stretch beyond what you already know."
Duke Energy Indiana
Duke Energy Indiana's operations provide about 7,500 megawatts of owned electric capacity to approximately 810,000 customers in a 23,000-square-mile service area, making it the state's largest electric supplier.
Headquartered in Charlotte, N.C., Duke Energy is a S&P 100 Stock Index company traded on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol DUK. More information about the company is available at duke-energy.com.
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